Golden Yankee Opportunity Dies on the Vine

Lead drops back to one with six games left to play

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Sep 28, 2012  |  Updated 7:52 AM EDT
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Thursday night should be the last time we see Nova this season.

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There's an old urban legend that maintains that the Chevy Nova was a major flop in Latin America because "no va" means "doesn't go" in Spanish. 

It's not actually true, the car sold just fine, but the Yankees might want to take some inspiration from that story when it comes to handling Ivan Nova for however long they keep playing this season.

Nova's second half has been an abject disaster, including Thursday night in Toronto when he spit the bit on the mound in a game that offered the Yankees a golden chance to pad their lead in the AL East. 

The Orioles were idle, which meant a Yankees win would give them a full two game lead entering the final six games of the season. That's not insurmountable, obviously, but it's a bigger lead than it seems when there are so few games left for the Orioles to find their way back to the top spot. 

One game feels like the smallest of margins because all it takes to jeopardize the lead is one bad start like the one Nova turned in on Thursday night. It was the same kind of outing that we've grown accustomed to seeing from Nova all season, an untimely walk setting up a home run and then a meatball served up to Edwin Encarnacion for a double with runners on base to score two more runners in the fifth inning.

Nova has now given up 87 extra base hits this season, the most of any Yankee pitcher in history. He's basically just A.J. Burnett in a younger shell, something that the Yankees obviously didn't think they would have to deal with this season after they were finally able to rid themselves of Burnett over the winter.  

That was the end of the night for Nova, the second straight start that saw him fail to complete at least five innings. A loss might have been unavoidable since only Robinson Cano and Russell Martin figured out how to get hits off Brendan Morrow, but the 6-0 final and early sense of defeat had everything to do with a pitcher who just doesn't go this season. 

That's why his last name has to be a message that the Yankees take to heart when they are filling out their rotation for the rest of the way. Nova is scheduled to start once more, but there's no way the Yankees can let him take the mound against Boston if the game actually means something to their chances of winning the division. 

And, judging by the fact that the Yankees haven't been able to put anything away or even close to away to this point in the season, it's a good bet that every one of the six remaining games are going to be meaningful. So Nova should cheer and slap backs from the dugout while others take care of the actual pitching. 

After all, Nova isn't the only model on the market and it's high time to find out if one of the others can run a little better. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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